Short Answer: No.
We’re a week out from July 4th, Independence Day in America, and the annual viewing party of Independence Day on HBO. It’s a deeply spiritual part of any celebration, watching young Will Smith, young Bill Pullman, and youngish Randy Quaid fight aliens in the most overblown blockbuster in history.
With Independence Day: Resurgence in theaters now, there has been a recent reevaluation of whether this movie is any good. Here’s a hint, it’s a fine movie, as long as you don’t pay attention at all, and love ‘splosions. And damn, are those ‘splosions awesome.
This is the movie that made Roland Emmerich able to make all those other movies where things go kablooie, like the one with John Cusack as the divorced writer, and the one with The Rock, and the one with the sentient ice that chases people down hallways and freezes wolves. I’d say this is the best one of all of them, but that’s not really praise.
As a perpetual fourteen year old (old enough to like boobs, but dumb enough to love ‘splosions), I have always enjoyed these kinds of disaster movies, but ID4 may have actually been the turning point where they became awful. If you watch it now, you can tell that the models were lovingly blown up in the best way, creating beautiful tension and wonderful destruction. After this, name one thing that has blown up as good as the things in this movie. I’ll wait.
On With The Speech
But the real reason any of us remember this movie is because of the speech. And, it is quite the speech.
We’ve been conditioned to think of this as the do nothing right president, but he gets out there and rips away on the flats of Area 51, creating a moment that will be remembered as the greatest moment in Bill Pullman’s career, other than the entirety of Spaceballs. This is a hard scene to get tonally right, because it is seriously tacky. It has all the earmarks of a speech that would be over the top, and yet, it plays. Man, does it play.
At this point, I can just type quotes from it, and you’ll hear them in his voice.
“We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We’re going to live on!
We’re going to survive!”
Pop Quiz: How many of you finished the speech after just reading it?
That’s what I thought.
But Why Does It Work?
First off, we’ve got this group ready to go, we start with him actually screwing up, messing up the loudspeaker before it starts working. We’re on his side, because everyone in this airfield is going to be dead if their plan doesn’t work. The set sets him up in the middle of the hangar, with every line pointed at him. We pan across the ethnically diverse cast, who are now all on the same side.
The camera movement, a slow dolly in that goes between shots, brings us closer and closer to him, creating an intimacy that changes the tenor. Since we start wide, we are communicating to the large group, with all of us on the same side, but as the music swells and the speech continues, the camera moves closer and closer, creating the illusion that the president is speaking just to us.
The music during ID4 was always insanely overblown. So, this moment is accompanied by the most overblown part of the score. We’re already hearing it, but we know that the swell is coming, and when the climax hits, the whole group starts cheering. The entire audience is included in the fight against the aliens, and it works amazingly well.
There is a definition of a great movie as three good scenes and no bad ones. This is not a great movie, but this scene is one of the most effective ones I’ve ever seen.
What’s your favorite movie speech?